Before signing a lease and getting your keys, there are important questions to ask about a rental. (iStock)

First-time home buyers get plenty of advice about what to do when visiting an open house. But first-time renters should be just as careful when touring apartments to get information that could make a big difference to their budget and to their experience as a renter. We asked the experts at Apartment List, a rental housing marketplace, to share some of the most important questions that renters sometimes forget to ask that go beyond “how much is the rent?”

What utilities are included, and how do I pay them?

This will largely depend on your landlord and the type of apartment building in which you live. In large complexes, it’s typical for landlords to cover water and garbage. Thus, it is likely that tenants will be responsible for the electricity and gas bills, as well as Internet and cable bills.

The best way to get an estimate for the utility bill in a potential apartment is to ask the landlord what a household similar to yours pays per month.

What changes can I make to the apartment?

When you sign a lease, you are essentially accepting the apartment unit in its current state. Any major renovation requests will need to go through your landlord. Smaller properties are likely to be more flexible than large multifamily complexes.

What’s the apartment building’s pet policy?

Unfortunately, moving in with a pet will limit the number of potential apartments available to you. Ask whether pets are allowed, but also ask about added costs. Most landlords will require some form of a pet deposit, pet rent, and/or pet fees.

What is the guest policy?

Usually, visitors aren’t an issue, but having long-term guests could cause issues. It’s common for landlords to have rules pertaining to the length of a guest’s visit. It’s not very common, but some landlords might require you to add your long-term visitors on a sign-up sheet.